November is right around the corner. That means Vanderbilt basketball will soon be here to take our minds away from matchups against Charleston Southern and deliver them to matchups against Trevecca Nazarene.
The Commodores are projected to finish in the top half of the SEC this season despite the losses of guys like Rod Odom, Kyle Fuller, Dai-Jon Parker, and Kedren Johnson. Odom and Fuller graduated after four years in black and gold, while Parker and Johnson transferred from Nashville after running afoul of team or university policies in the past year.
So why the rosy outlook from pollsters? It has to do with a dynamite class of freshman who have arrived to keep this team afloat - and keep the "Fire Kevin Stallings" grumblings to a minimum. (And also, the relative weakness of the SEC as a whole. It's a football conference, after all...) Shelton Mitchell, Wade Baldwin IV, Riley LaChance, Jeff Roberson, and Matthew Fisher-Davis will give Stallings his biggest class of young talent since 2007.
Today, we'll focus on the point guard position. Newcomers Mitchell and LaChance appear to be battling for playing time at the point, but veteran hand Carter Josephs will also have a part in that competition. Baldwin, a versatile combo guard, could also see minutes at the point but will likely spend much of his time off the ball.
Here are the candidates who will rise up as Vandy's floor general this winter:
Carter Josephs (6'0", 180 lbs), Junior: Josephs parlayed a solid sophomore season and the departures of Johnson and Parker into a scholarship with the team. He showed notable improvement as 2014 wore on, developing from a late-game afterthought into a valuable addition to the Vandy rotation. His nine-assist showing helped carry the team to a win over Auburn, and while he failed to score a point in 20 appearances (one FG attempt), Josephs made an impact with his passing and physical defense from the point.
Josephs is unlikely to win the starting role this winter, but he is in line to earn minutes off the bench for this young Commodore team.
Riley LaChance (6'2", 192 lbs), Freshman: LaChance came all the way from Wisconsin to man the point for the Commodores, and the point guard has the kind of game that could make him an All-SEC talent under Kevin Stallings. He's an intelligent point guard who makes good decisions and sees the court well enough to find open shooters off the drive. More importantly, he's a solid shooter who can catch-and-shoot three pointers when the ball is kicked back to him.
LaChance was rated similarly to Brad Tinsley coming out of high school. With a solid ability to get to the rim and a track record of hitting open three-pointers, he'll have a good chance at living up to that standard. He won't have the kind of offensive weapons flanking him that Tinsley did, but the lack of upperclassmen in the Vandy backcourt means that he'll have plenty of chances to prove himself as a freshman this winter.
Shelton Mitchell (6'3", 183 lbs), Freshman: Mitchell was the highest rated member of Stallings's 2014 recruiting class, according to Rivals, and he'll battle LaChance for starting point guard duties this fall. He may be a purer point than LaChance, but he'll have to prove that his vision holds up against faster, bigger defenses in college. The Oak Hill Academy prospect has played some of the toughest high school opponents out there, so it seems likely that he'll acclimate to the college game more easily than LaChance.
Mitchell has the size to be an above-average defender at the point, but he struggled to keep up with faster guards on the prep circuit. He's a solid shooter who can get to the rim or step back and hit a mid-range jumper with efficiency. His three-point shooting dipped as a junior, but his solid mechanics suggest that he'll be a solid floor-spacing shooter for the 'Dores over the course of his college career.